Written by attorney Alan James Brinkmeier

Family Law "Illinois Leveling the Playing Field"

Illinois law simply does not require that one spouse be automatically responsible for the other spouse's attorney's fees. But, if one spouse has the biggest portion of the money resources, the court can make that spouse help the economically dependent spouse with her fees and costs. This concept and a recent 2009 amendment has recently been introduced into Illinois law in a statute sometimes known at the "Leveling the Playing Field" law. The burden is upon the spouse seeking a contribution for fees to first show that he or she has an inability to pay the fees with their own resources. In that event, the court can require the other spouse to contribute fees and costs, both during and at the conclusion of the proceeding. An older case is Lee v. Lee, 302 Ill.App.3d 607, 236 Ill.Dec. 222, 707 N.E.2d 67 (1st Dist. 1998) which takes the opposite view. This older case decision held that the parties cannot, by a marital settlement agreement provision, provide that each party will be responsible for his and her own attorney's fees and thus the Lee descision precludes an attorney from seeking fees against the party with the greater ability to pay.

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